Pikoli sticks to his guns over Selebi claim

Former National Prosecuting Authority boss Vusi Pikoli had to defend his assertion that he was suspended to stop the investigation into police National Commissioner Jackie Selebi when he was cross-examined by the state at Thursday’s hearing into his fitness to hold office.

“In the scheme of things, your charge that you were suspended to put a spoke in the prosecution of Mr Selebi can’t hold. ... The prosecution is on its way, Mr Pikoli.
The first of February was the start of the prosecution,” state advocate Kgomotso Moroka said at the Johannesburg hearing.

Pikoli said his claim had to be seen in the totality of the events during the investigation.

“If you look into the totality of activities prior and immediately after my suspension it is quite clear that I was suspended to stop the arrest and prosecution of the National Commissioner of police. There is no doubt in my mind,” he said.

Moroka persisted in his line of questioning, and asked Pikoli to explain why he believed this, given that Selebi had already appeared in court and his trial had been set down for April 14 next year, and that the lead prosecutors on the case were in place.

Selebi has been presented with an initial indictment that alleges corruption and defeating the ends of justice in a case that has links with Brett Kebble murder accused Glenn Agliotti and Clinton Nassif.

Agliotti and Nassif have reached plea bargain agreements relating to drug offences with the state in exchange for testifying in a forthcoming drugs trial.

He said he had also received a letter from Justice and Constitutional Development Minister Brigitte Mabandla telling him to stop the investigation.

‘I was ready to proceed’
“I was ready to proceed in terms of all the available evidence I had at the time. There was a letter written by the minister which is VP12 [the label of the document in the inquiry] which was written to stop me in my tracks,” he said.

He believed it would have been difficult to stop the investigation after his suspension, given that his temporary replacement Mokotedi Mpshe and an independent panel had confirmed his original decision to prosecute.

He questioned the timing of Mpshe’s announcement that he would form a review panel of the investigation, saying it came a few days after Mbeki suggested this in a television interview.

He also said the executive had no authority to second-guess prosecution decisions.

He confirmed Moroka’s submission that President Thabo Mbeki had been helpful in trying to secure documents from the police by asking his director general, Frank Chikane, to facilitate cooperation between the police and Pikoli’s staff, saying Mbeki was “committed” to the process.

Moroka questioned his testimony that he had informed Mabandla of his decision to prosecute by asking him to point out the word “arrest” in a communication that discussed the investigation.

Pikoli said he did not think he should be forced to answer “yes or no” but that he had made it clear to her that he intended to prosecute Selebi.

When Selebi eventually first appeared in court, he was not arrested, but had handed himself over.

Report ‘was going to cause trouble’
Earlier, he said he had a feeling that the first version of the Special Browse Mole Report would cause trouble but did not do anything about it immediately because he was advised to “file” it and his department already had a heavy workload.

“It was one of those documents that you wish you have never seen. I had this gut feel about this document, that this was going to cause trouble.”

The report was given to him in March/April 2006 by former Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) head Leonard McCarthy.

At the time the DSO was busy with high profile investigations and dealing with matters relating to the Khampepe Commission into the dispute over whether the DSO, an investigative unit, should stay in the Justice and Constitutional Development Department or be moved to the South African Police Service.

“We were rather stressed out,” he said.

McCarthy said that because he was so busy, there was no harm in just filing it away because he was going to give him a final report.

Although it already contained a number of conclusions “on the face of it”, Pikoli considered it a “mixture of fact and fiction”.

“As I said I did not really apply my mind to it,” he said. “I did not study it, I flipped through it.”

The report contained allegations of a foreign funded operation to bring African National Congress president Jacob Zuma to power.

Regarding allegations that his team did not have the security vetting to search the Union Buildings, he said neither the presidency nor the Justice Ministry raised concerns about security clearance ahead of the raids on the offices Zuma occupied while he was deputy president.

“There were no objections to the searches. There were no reservations to the searches,” he said.

Pikoli was suspended on September 23 last year on the grounds of a breakdown in relations with Mabandla, and that he did not fully appreciate matters of national security.

He believed it was because of the Selebi investigation.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Friday. - Sapa

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